It’s been a little while I will admit and Christmas and New Year already seems like an incredibly long time ago but needless to say, it was fantastic. I returned to my family home in Devon which looked like a picture postcard all covered in snow with clear blue skies.
As ever, things did get quite rushed in the lead up to my departure despite how much I had managed to plan for in advance. Possibly the hardest thing was deciding what I was going to want to wear for the time I was at home! In the week leading up to Christmas Eve I definitely felt on top of things, the present wrapping was all done and the pork pies had been delivered, one for the hamper and the other to take home to my parents. These are without a doubt, the most delicious pork pies that I have ever tasted. They are made by a friend of one of my colleagues who has resurrected her old family business, Scrimshaw’s Pork Pies & Sausages http://www.scrimshawporkpies.com. The pork pies really are lovely; I don’t normally like pork pies because I find that the ones that you buy in the supermarket are of such poor quality – stodgy, slightly soggy pastry, low meat content, and just generally pretty nasty. In contrast, Scrimshaw’s pork pies are wonderful – they contain real meat and are perfectly seasoned with the most delicious pastry.
With the pork pie in the bag, the only thing left to do was to make the fruit pastilles. They are very easy but do require time because they have to be left to set and then rolled in sugar before being left to dry. I made raspberry and passion fruit pastilles. It was rather like making jam really; you simply place the raspberries and the pulp from the passion fruit in a large saucepan until it is has broken down into a puree, push the puree through a sieve and then boil with an equal weight of sugar until thick. I left my pastilles to set over night although they would probably set more quickly than this before cutting into cubes and rolling in sugar. I put my fruit pastilles into jars and tied the gift pastilles with some ribbon. The marshmallows also went into a jar because I didn’t have a suitable box for them so the hamper consisted of three jars, one of the mango and ginger chutney, another with pastilles, a third with marshmallows and a pork pie. Although on paper this is a bit of strange mix of goods and they was not a theme to it as such, my main concern was that everyone would be able to find something that they liked to eat in the hamper. The feedback that I have received is that I managed to achieve this aim and it was well received. I thoroughly enjoyed compiling the hamper and if I had more time and didn’t have to go to work, then I would have included more items and tried to make it more spectacular. It would also have been nice to have had more time to source a suitable hamper although was reasonably pleased with my Zara Home basket.
With the hamper finally completed and safely delivered, I was able to settle into my seat on the train and make my way back home to Devon. I do love Christmas in the country, I don’t think that I can really imagine what Christmas in the city would be like without the long walks after lunch down the snowy country lanes (ok so they aren’t normally snowy/icy but you probably get the general idea). I was scarcely required in the kitchen for the whole period that I was at home. I would never expect otherwise, but everything was under control and my help wasn’t really needed. This year my brother seemed to do quite a lot of the cooking on Christmas day which is largely due to the fact that he is unable to entertain himself/sit still for more than a few minutes. We had plenty of food over the festive period but I wouldn’t say that we had an excessive amount with boxes and boxes of biscuits and chocolates everywhere, we were rather more restrained. We had my Mum’s American Pulled Pork on Christmas Eve and then we kicked off Christmas Day with Eggs Benedict and Bucks Fizz. We always eat our Christmas dinner in the evening so that we can have the candles on the table and the lights on the tree. We are a turkey household; there was a motion a couple of years ago to have beef but my brother and I stood firm and insisted on the turkey – how can you have turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day if you have had beef? I think that gravy on Christmas Day was the best yet; rich and tasted very much of turkey. A joint effort from my Mum and my brother and all thanks has to go to them for a fantastic meal with just the right amount of everything, apart from the bread sauce perhaps, there did seem to be rather a glut of that!
We aren’t a Christmas pudding household because so few of us eat it. I imagine that this doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that we no longer have a Christmas cake because there are so few takers for it. Instead we round off Christmas dinner with Yule Log and mince pies. My Mum’s Yule Log was, as ever, simply delicious. As I do, my Mum likes to have prepared as much as she possibly can in advance so that she can relax with everyone else and she always makes the log in advance because it freezes very well. It really is fabulous and is always decorated with little plastic festive cake decorations that were inherited from my Granny. There is something of a scale issue (a rather large robin and a relatively small tree) but we love to see them and Christmas is the only time that they come out. I guess there is something rather comforting about them, as with seeing your old favourite decorations on the tree.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas even if I wasn’t much required for any cooking. In some ways, it was quite nice not to be required and to be cooked for as it doesn’t often happen. It was also good to have a pre-skiing break as the next big thing in my agenda was hosting New Year’s Eve in the Swiss Alps.